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Traditional Christmas Recipes from Greece, Italy and Ukraine

Christmas is mostly about food. At least that’s what the Italians say. Medieval feasts adorn tables as the nation has one week to eat like princes having suffered under meagre pasta salads and sarnies. I say that having finished off a bottle of mulled wine and two large bowls of Christmas pudding with cream.

Christmas superstitions as well encourage heavy eating around Christmas. One states that the amount of good luck you will have in the following year depends on how many houses you eat mince pies in: if you eat mince pies in 2 houses, you will have 2 months of good luck. Another tradition states having nine dinner courses for Christmas dinner. Having lots of mince pies in lots of different houses will make the scales read higher, but superstition is friend to the gluttony of Christmas.

Mince pies are the fastest selling Christmas nibble with supermarkets stocking them from September. But these festive treats were originally called manger pies. The 11 century crusaders brought them back from the Holy land.

You don’t need to change the traditional roast Christmas dinner, but add a few more entries from the orthodox/catholic countries.

Ukrainian Christmas Recipes

  • Salads and compote (dried fruit drink): Ukraine offers a great cuisine for vegetarians at Christmas as it features 12 meatless dishes to remember Christ’s birth. Put one of the twelve on your table this holiday. Christmas is celebrated here on Jan 7, by the Gregorian calendar. Ukraine won its independence in 1991 from the soviets, winning back Christmas in the process. Sviat Vechir (Christmas eve) is the time for feasting and exchanging presents.
  • Kutya: Ukrainians often marinate and soak ingredients overnight ready for morning. Wash 2 cups of wheat in cold water then soak overnight in the 7 pints of water. The next day, simmer the wheat for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Note: the wheat is ready when the kernels burst open and the fluid should be thick and creamy. Chop up one cup of poppy seed in a food processor and set aside in a bowl. Mix 1/3 cups honey, 2-3 cups sugar and 7 pints of hot water together. Add the poppy seeds, chopped nuts and wheat to the honey mixture and stir. Add more honey to taste.

Greek Christmas Recipe: Roast Lamb, Stuffed Turkey, Baklava

Greek culture is associated with luxurious feasts. Easter was always a more important celebration here, however Christmas has had a recent revival with the Athens mayor erecting what is thought to be the biggest Christmas tree in Europe.

  • Galopoula Yemisti (stuffed turkey). Make your turkey Greek style by stuffing it with pine nuts, sultanas, rice and giblets. Try adding a cinnamon stick along with the usual herbs. Recipe not needed, experiment and stuff away! Serve with roast potatoes as normal and vegetables/salad.
  • Baklava is a sticky pastry sweet eaten in the middle east, Turkey, and also in the Greek culture. Most middle eastern supermarket/shops stock a selection of twelve types of bakalva for three- four pounds. Individually they are litle expensive at 70p each. Turkey, Greek countries and countries such as Iran have their own variations of Baklava. See here for a straightforward recipe.

Italian Christmas Recipes

  • “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con i vuoi” – Christmas with the family, Easter with who you like.

Italy lacks a traditional ritual food for Christmas. You can expect antipasti (fish, cured meats) broth with tortellini, Polenta, a meat dish and Panettone, a tall cake .

  • Polenta is very versatile. This usually yellow colored cornmeal tastes not unlike potato. Grill or fry lightly, roll in sugar, and serve warm with ice cream and syrup for a quick desert. Ready made Polenta is about 70p in the UK, or buy some quick cook polenta and stir into boiling water until it forms a solidified mass.

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